Sezione Storica – Fondo Cartografico Losardo – Sala IX (Tav. XLIV)

  • Carta corografica della Calabria ulteriore : giusta le recenti Osservazioni e misure fatte dal P. Eliseo della Concezione Teresiano Accademico Pensionario della R. A. delle S. e delle B. L. / P. Eliseus a Conceptione direxit Franc. Progenie pinxit, et sculpsit (preface and seven over nine maps in total) (n. 71-78) (1784) (Room IX) (Fig. 159)

Padre Eliseo della Concezione is the author of Carta corografica della Calabria ulteriore : giusta le recenti Osservazioni e misure fatte dal P. Eliseo della Concezione Teresiano Accademico Pensionario della R. A. delle S. e delle B. L. / P. Eliseus a Conceptione direxit Franc. Progenie pinxit, et sculpsit. This chorographic map is scaled approximately at 1:130.000 and features 9 sheets in black and white. Eight of them are stored in the Losardo Collection.

The sheets are 800×500 mm (2.40 x1.50 m joined), with marginal graduation, a rich graphic work with topographic reliefs, built-up areas, and a wind rose.

Some explanatory notes of the different metric scales used are included at the bottom right corner of the maps; on the lower left corner, we have the representation of an equatorial machine, a device conceived by Padre Eliseo.

The map shows the distribution of earthquake damage, classifying the towns in “partially damaged”, “partly destroyed and partly uninhabitable” and “completely destroyed.” In fact, this is the first example of a seismic map in Italy. It was made by the Neapolitan Francesco Mango, aka Padre Eliseo della Concezione (Naples, 1725-1809), Provincial Father, then Father Procurator of the Order of Discalced Carmelites of the city. A cultured and ingenious scholar, he devoted himself constantly to research, especially in the fields of experimental physics and cartography, and solidly tied his scientific work at the Royal Academy of Sciences and Humanities, founded in Naples by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon in 1780. He also designed a special eudiometer and a complex “equatorial machine “, a geodetic instrument for geographical measurements, commissioned by the watchmaker Giuseppe Fiore in 1779. Eliseo was included in the commission sent in Calabria following the catastrophic earthquake that devastated the region on February 5, 1783.

The academic expedition was aimed both to gather some data about all the phenomena observed around the earthquake “with every possible objectiveness, sagacity and truthfulness”, and “the exact exploration of the regions themselves, to illustrate their natural history, to understand their public economy, and to preserve the memory of the already destroyed position of cities and lands there contained” (Istoria dei fenomeni del tremuoto avvenuto nelle Calabrie e nel Valdemonte nell’anno 1783 posta in luce della R. Accademia di scienze e belle lettere in Napoli, Naples 1784, p. XI). The specific task of Padre Eliseo was to compile the geographical annotations needed to “form a topographic map of the desolate Calabria, as at a glance one could see the utter confusion where it fell” (ibid., p. XI).

He refused to use Magini’s Calabria map or one of the many versions circulating at the time. While visiting a large part of the affected region, he performed precise geographical measurements. To this end, he used his equatorial machine which allowed him to determine the latitude and longitude of some places that were never before classified from a cartographic point of view. This complex and heavy geodetic instrument ensured the accuracy of the measurements through the observation of Jupiter’s satellites, a method adopted in France by J.D. Cassini, but not yet popular in Italy at the time.

In less than a year all the necessary notations were carried out and, in June 1784, the Carta corografica della Calabria Ulteriorewas enclosed to the official report compiled by Sarconi. Several copper plates were used in the engraving; the first plates were made by the engraver Arcangelo – also called Agnello – Cattaneo and the engineer Francesco Vega, but the definitive work, with drawing and engraving, was completed by Francesco Progenie.

Eliseo’s Carta Corografica was, at the time, the largest  topographic map of Calabria ever made; from a historical point of view, it lies “almost as a link between the cartography of Magini and Rizzi Zannoni.” By methodically adopting astronomical observation, he managed to achieve fairly realistic results, much better than the previous measurements done by Magini. Furthermore, he oriented the perimeter of the province demonstrating the general error present in all the previous maps, which “add 10′ of latitude and remove 28′ of longitude to the villages situated on the Ionian Sea side”.

The representation also classifies the various locations according to the damages caused by the earthquake; all urban or rural settlements are reported, recorded, and properly marked with a number of asterisks in proportion to the damage caused by the earthquake on buildings, so as to constitute a real seismic cartogram that can be considered extremely important in the history of seismic cartography.

Having to identify the full extension of the seismic phenomenon, Eliseo proceeded with great rigour and, while visiting a large part of the affected region, performed accurate geographical measurements.